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8.5. ThAyumAnavar (tay<ma[vrf) (1705 - 1742 A.D.)

8.5.1. Introduction

One of the striking features of ancient civilizations is that, periodically during the course of history, sages and philosophers were born who were able to make profound changes in their society with their thoughts and deeds. ThAyumAnavar, who lived in the 18th century belonged to this category of philosophical leaders in the Thamizh region. In the Sangam period there was religious forbearance (cmypfepaAb) ; in the post Sangam era it gradually changed into religious difference (cmyEvBpaDkqf) ; in the Bhakthi period one saw the onset of religious strife (cmypfp>clf). ThirumUlar (tiRYMlrf) laid down the foundation of religious equanimity (cmycmrcmf). With the advent of the philosophy of VEdhAn^tham (Evtanftmf) and SitthAn^tham (citftanftmf) the situation deteriorated into religious conflicts (cmypfEparf) which were in addition fanned by caste differences. At a time when the religious strife was at the pinnacle and the society was highly polarized, ThAyumAnavar postulated his hypothesis of "advaitha SitthAn^tham" (`tfTAvtcitftanftmf). This concept was more universal and aimed at bridging the gap between VEdhAn^tham and SitthAn^tham.

Born in VEthAraNyam (Evtar]iymf `lflT tiRmAbkfkaD) in the ChOzha Kingdom, ThAyumAnavar was the treasurer in the service of Visaya Raghun^Atha Chockalinka n^Ayakkar (vicyrKnat ecakfkligfk naykfkrff). Even as a civil servant his mind was always preoccupied with spiritual matters. When the Queen surprised him with romantic advances, he quit his job. He then came under the tutelage of Mouna Guru DhEsikar (emq[KREtcikrf) who taught him to practise the art of being quiet (Cmfma ;R). After his mother died, ThAyumAnavar became an ascetic and spent all his time in spiritual endeavours.

8.5.2. Salient Features of ThAyumAnavar's Literary Works Literary objectives (epaR]fAm EkadfpaD)

a) He had written 1454 poems which were of either pAmAlai (pamaAl,) (Garland of poems) or kaNNikaL (k]f]ikqf) type. KaNNikaL refer to very short poems of two lines each in a very elementary folk style, in which he was able to squeeze in profound philosophical concepts. The message itself was in the form an exclamation addressed to a variety of arbitrary subjects such as a parrot, painkiLik kaNNi (Apgfkiqikfk]f]i) or the Absolute Being (praprkfk]f]i). For example, he said that he did not know anything else except to wish that everyone shall be happy in the following parAparak kaNNi (praprkfk]f]i) :

'lfElaRmf ;[fp <bfbiRkfk niA[pfpTEv
`lflamlf Eve$[fbbiEy[f praprEm
(praprkfk]f]i 221)

His objective was therefore not to display his Thamizh literary skills before scholars but to use the language to communicate with ordinary people in spiritual matters, a strategy neglected by the VEdhic system. His use of the words, pAmAlai (pamaAl) and sonmAlai (eca[fmaAl) rather than ilakkiyam (;lkfkiymf) to refer to his works is indicative of his aims. The following poem gives details of his literary works:

vi]f}BnfEt vrfkqf M[ivrf k]gfkqf citftrf
p <kzfemq[i viypfpalf wa[tf
t]f}B t]f dmizfmaAl _wfW\bf eb]f
ptfEtZnf tay< maE[a[f
'[f[Bgfk]f ]ikqf ']f}\bf bBptf AtnfT
`kvlf v]f]mf ;r]fDmfpaF
m]f}Bnalf vAkmanftrf tmkfkakpf
pkfKvrfpalf Avtfta[f ;[fEb

b) ThAyumAnavar believed that mere bookish knowledge on philosophy was inadequate for attaining spiritual fulfillment as mentioned in the following poem. He said that spiritual knowledge acquired from books alone resembled a person who was planting cotton to make strings to climb to heaven.

N\El]i vi]f}b N\bfKpf pRtftiAvpfparf
Epal kRvin[f{\bf Epatmf praprEm
(praprkfk]f]i 186)

c) ThAyumAnavar spelled out the four conventional literary objectives (`bmf epaRqi[fpmf vIdAdtlf N\bfpyE[) but emphasized that of the four, the most important one for salvation is the spiritual pursuit (wa[enbi) ; (EvtMd[akmmf p<kLmti[alamf py[f wa[enbi Mkfy enbi) (emq[KR 5). His literary works are thus oriented either intellectually (`biv< niAl) or spiritually (`RqfniAl).

d) ThAyumAnavar's spiritual policy

i) Oneness of God

In his religious discussions he gave the least amount of importance to myths and legends mentioned in the purANams. He conceived Sivam (civmf) as the Absolute Being, omnipresent and embodiment of eternal bliss and grace (`gfK ;gfK '[atpF 'gfKmf pirkacmayf ~[nft p>rftftiyaki `REqaD niAbnfT). He conceded that the Divine was beyond any literary description (ecalfLkfkdgfkacffCkpfepaRqf) or mental comprehension (m[mfvakfki[ilf tdfdamlf ni[fbv[f).

In literary works it is common for authors to describe the physical expression of the feelings of individuals. In ThAyumAnar's poems, the devotional feelings are also captured with utmost reality as in the following poem.

udlfKAzy '[feplamf enkfKRk viziknIrfkqf
Ubfeb[ evTmfpiy> bfb
Ucikanf ttftiA[kf k]fYYYDklf EpalEv
Orbv<mf u[f[iy<[f[ipf
pdpfped[ enwfcmf pAttfTqf nDkfKbpf
paFyaF...... (kR]akrkfkdv<qf 9)

With his astute sense of logic, ThAyumAnavar was able to bridge the gap between followers of VEdhAn^tham and SitthAn^tham with his theory of universal religion (CtftatfTvt citftanft cmrc cmymf). He postulated that VEdhan^tham resembled the path and SitthAn^tham the vehicle to reach Sivam, the absolute being. His statement, "I do not have any dobts that no matter in what form you worship, the Divine is only One". (etaZnfetyfvemlflamf o[fEb, mRqf '[kfkilfAl) is perhaps more relevant today than at any other moment in the history of mankind.

ii) Being Quiet (Cmfma;Rtftlf)

ThAyumAnavar's advice to the serious student of spiritual philosophy is to discipline the mind, control desires and meditate peacefully. Again this message is more relevant for people living in affluent conditions, when one is apt to over indulge in insatiable desires and ultimately get overawed in desperation. ThAyumAnar was the first to admit that "it is easy to control an elephant, catch hold of the tiger's tail, grab the snake and dance, dictate the angels, transmigrate into another body, walk on water or sit on the sea; but it is more difficult to control the mind and remain quiet". (yaA[Ay`dkfklamf, p<livaAlkf kdfdlamf, pamfApeyDtftadfdlamf, vi]f]vAr "vlamf, EvE$rf udlf p<klamf, clEmlf ndkfklamf, kdlfEmlf ;Rkfklamf. ~[alf cinfAtAy `dkfkiEy Cmfma ;Rkfki[fb tibmriT (EcrEcamya[nftmf 8.) He condemned excessive desires towards land, gold and woman (m]f, epa[f, ep]f) and pleaded to God that his only desire was to remain in perfect peace within. (Cmfma viRpfptbfEk `lfLmf pkLem[kfkaAc praprEm (praprkfk]f]i 8). A similar thought had been expressed by ThiruvaLLuvar earlier:

pbfBk pbfbbf$[f pbfbiA[ `pfpbfAb
pbfBk pbfB vidbfK
(Kbqf, 350)

iii) Self exposition (evqiyID)

ThAyumAnavar expressed his feelings following conventional akam and puRam styles. He used the hero-heroine or the hero-friend dialogue patterns for puRam purposes; he employed the God-devotee relationship for akam topics. His repentance for his past actions and self admonition over his human limitations and weaknesses were depicted clearly in his poems. The following popular lines are applicable to many of us regardless of our religious affiliation: "No matter how much or from how many sources I learn I never seem to be able to control my mind or get rid of my arrogance". ('tftA[ vitgfkqfta[f kbfki{mf Ekdfki{mf '[f ;tymf oDgfkvilfAl, yae[{mf `knfAt ta[f 'qfqqv<mf mabvilfAl...~[nftma[prmf 9.)

iv) Format (vFvmf)

ThAyumAnavar's poems are in the form of Aciriya virutthap pAkkaL (~ciriyviRtftpfpakfkqf) in the 6, 7, 8 or 12 meters. The kaNNikaL are short pieces and are in the form of Anan^thak kaLippu (~[nftkfkqipfp<) popularly sung by the paNdAram (p]fdarmf) on the streets. In these poems the soul (~[fma) is depicted as the lover and God as the hero with an intermix of Bhakthi (pkftiEyakmf) and spirituality (wa[Eyakmf).

The similes and metaphors in ThAyumAnavar's works are considered to be a fusion of reality, spirituality and humor. In describing the wandering mind, he compares it to a monkey, not an ordinary monkey but a huge one (EpyfkfKrgfK) ; not merely a huge monkey but one which has been stung by a scorpion (Etqf) :

ekaqfqtf Etqf ekadfFkf Ktikfki[fb EpyfkfKrgfkayfkf
kqfqm[nf TqfQvet[f k]fEda praprEm
praprkfk]f]i 172)

8.5.3. Conclusion

ThAyumAnavar's literary objective was not to impress the elite but to convey his message and share his own spiritual experiences with the common man. (ya[fepbfb ;[fpmfepBk ;vfAvykmf). The popularity of ThAyumAnavar's works may be ascribed to their simple literary format set to folk type melodies. His liberal spiritual philosophy (`tfTAvt citftanftcmrcmf) is proof of his vision of a universal religion in which semantics, rituals, fixed dogmas are considered less important than the recognition of the Absolute Being as omnipresent, graceful and full of love. By avoiding over indulgence in sensual desires and maintaining peace within (Cmfma ;R), people leading a fast life would be able to achieve the same spiritual fulfillment that he himself enjoyed.

8.6. Bibliography

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